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Syrian Refugee Teach-In


In response to the Syrian refugee crisis, some of the Roanoke College professors decided to host a teach-in on Nov. 20 at noon, in order to open a discussion about the situation.

Drs. Snow, Willingham, Hawke, Warren, and Anderson shared information and were available to field the follow-up questions.

The atrium of Colket filled with faculty, staff, and students alike who were interested in learning more about what is currently happening and what we can do about it. While the crowd formed, the professors handed out an information sheet with questions that they would address.

To begin, the professors briefly addressed some of the history of Syria, why fighting is happening there, who ISIS and the refugees are, and why people are seeking refuge. After the initial background and facts about what is happening, Dr. Willingham spoke about the press surrounding the city of Roanoke and Mayor David Bower.

On Nov. 18, Mayor Bower stated that the US should ‘pause’ the allowance of Syrian refugees into the country and asked for all of the Roanoke Valley to stop giving assistance to the refugees. He then compared the current ‘threat’ to how President Roosevelt handled a similar threat of harm from the Japanese in WWII with the creation of internments camps.

Students and faculty were invited then to ask questions or comment their concerns. One student asked the faculty to respond to the idea that “it only takes one.” Dr. Willingham answered with the statistic that almost 800,000 refugees have been accepted into the US since 9/11, of which only 3 have been arrested on terrorism charges. He also mentioned that with the idea that “it only takes one,” we would have more worries on domestic acts of violence than terrorism from the refugees.

Another student stepped in to ask what we could do to help the refugees, to which the professors responded about a meeting that was being held later that night for the city of Roanoke to attend. They also encouraged students to vote and make their voices heard in local politics.

Dr. Mike Heller quoted Gandhi “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” to speak out about how we should also look inward as a country and think about the violence we may be enacting.

Overall, the teach-in was a wonderful experience and eye-opening conversation for many that attended. All left with a reminder that we are a country that should not live in fear, but should rather give our love and aid.